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Dean of Students

Words can hurt, think before you tweet

This week, we received the sad news of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s unexpected death. Though most reactions to Hoffman’s passing involved a certain amount of shock or sympathy, there was one reaction this week that took everyone by surprise.

Hoffman is believed to have died of an overdose of Heroin, an addiction with which he struggled with since his young adulthood. Though Hoffman had been sober for years, he suffered a relapse in 2013. Despite seeking treatment, the actor injected a fatal amount of the drug into his arm over the weekend.

After news broke of Hoffman’s passing, actor Jared Padalecki, best known for his role on “Supernatural,” made a post on his Twitter account saying, “‘Sad’ isn’t the word I’d use to describe a 46-year-old man throwing his life away to drugs. ‘Senseless’ is more like it. ‘Stupid.’”

Though he removed the Tweet after a short time, it was not fast enough to keep it from the public eye, and Padalecki has received a great deal of backlash from fans and fellow celebrities alike. He later issued a retraction of his statement.

“I didn’t mean PSH is stupid or that addiction isn’t a reality,” Padalecki wrote. “I simply meant I have a different definition of ‘tragedy.’ “When I think ‘tragedy,’ I think of St. Judes, of genocide, of articles I read in the paper. But, yes, either way, a death is sad.”

This event raises questions about the perceived invincibility that seems to come with having a personal social media profile. While there is a certain “immortal” quality that we can neither take from nor deny to those who acquire fame, websites like Twitter and Instagram have added a dangerous dimension to it.

People see themselves, regardless of their level of celebrity, as God-like, or invincible, while writing on social media. There is no accountability after sending out a particularly insensitive or ignorant remark. Even if it evokes a trail of comments, one can simply shut their computer and continue on with their lives as if it never happened.

Statements like Padalecki’s showcase how entitled we feel to our opinions. Does the “Supernatural” star have every right to feel and think the way he does? Absolutely. Did an opinion like his likely cross the minds of others? Certainly. But to post it online at all is vastly inappropriate, and speaks to our warped sense of social grace brought on by the age of social media.

Because of the freedom with which we now share our thoughts, we don’t begin to consider the consequences of what our words may mean. Even when someone has died, as with the case of Padalecki’s comments regarding Hoffman’s passing, there is no filter online.

No matter what, it’s time we put our thoughts in check before “enlightening” the rest of the world. It is wrong to disrespect someone’s memory, but it is also wrong to disrespect someone while they are still around to remember what you said.

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